Bruised by COVID-19 restrictions, small businesses seek resources to keep staff employed

A Minnesota daycare center struggles to keep everyone employed amid COVID-19-related business restrictions.

The state of Minnesota’s aggressive response to curb the COVID-19 pandemic in the state has dented small businesses statewide.

Josh Soukup and his partner own and operate Kids Grow, a group of four children and preschool centers located just outside the Twin Cities metro area. He said he expected his business would be bruised.

“I’ll say the intensity level of managing a business is increasing significantly over the last three to four weeks,” he said.

About a month ago, Kids Grow was at 98 percent capacity serving 172 children. Since the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, however, the company’s enrollment is down 55 percent to 117 children, which, for the company, means a significant loss of tuition money.

Ownership offered $100 tuition credits to assist those working families who still need child care right now and they encouraged families to stay with them.

So far, despite the significant hit to their business, Soukup has been able to keep his entire staff of 38, but it’s a struggle.

“In our industry, our business, payroll makes up 65-70 percent of our business,” Soukup said. “It’s the biggest expense. It’s not even close. We need them as much as they need us.”

Soukup says his highest priority is to keep paying his early childhood caregivers during the crisis and he recently tried to tap into a giant pot of money Washington has made available through government rescue loans, known as the paycheck protection program. He found, however, his local bank, like many lending institutions across the country, are just not prepared to plug into and meet the immediate cash needs.

Minnesota Congresswoman Angie Craig said Monday the federal government needs to protect Main Street at all costs.

“It’s the American dream that’s at risk here,” she said in a Zoom conference. “And I think we have to do everything in our power as a Congress to make sure as many of these independent businesses survive because that’s the only way. When we’re done with the pandemic, it’s the only way to stand the economy back up.”